Dean Blank Wrote An Email
The other day, Barnard’s Dean of Studies sent out what seemed like a typical administrative email about academic procedures: finals, incompletes, grades etc. But we were kinda… put off by the last part. Emphasis and italics by us:
“I wish it were different, but many of you seem to feel great pressure about grades (really? are you actually confused as to why people feel pressured to do well at an academically challenging institution?) As a consequence, some of you over the past few years (yes, we all know cheating is a new-fangled phenomenon, much like The Facebook and The Google!) have taken unacceptable short cuts, cheating yourselves and your classmates. You probably know that misrepresentation of your situation, e.g., saying you’re seriously ill when you’re not, is also a violation of the College Honor Code. In addition to being a lie (insert gratuitous foreign character here). At the risk of sounding preachy (if you have to put a disclaimer in front of it, i.e., “not to be offensive, but…” it probably is!), I hope that all of us can agree that honesty in academic pursuits (and in all of our pursuits for that matter) is far more important to the way we choose to live our lives than is a course grade.”
And the email opens wishing everyone a “crisis-free” finals week. What is this, Dunder Mifflin’s
Clearly academic integrity is a crucial intellectual responsibility. The thing is, most people don’t cheat because they’re out to game the system, but because they’re backed into a corner and feel it’s their only option. Talking down to students won’t stop someone who is in such a bad place from cheating, but maybe offering some helpful resources would. So as much as we’re content with just pouring snark sauce all over this email, here’s what we wish it included.
- Librarians are brilliant—we don’t mean the library staff who check out your books but the wise ones at the reference desk.
- The Writing Center for Columbia, and Writing Fellows for Barnard.
- Subject specific help rooms for math, stats and physics.
- Calm yourself with tips from Well Woman.
- Profs, they’re not just celebrities behind the lectern but people who do sometimes respond to your frantic “I don’t understand the entire last month of material” email. Extensions exist! Don’t count on them— they’re (etymologically even) for extenuating circumstances. Still, it can’t hurt to ask. Here’s how, according to Shakespeare prof/ wonderwoman Molly Murray:
1. If you definitely know that you need an extension, actually ASK FOR IT. Don’t be paralyzed by shyness or shame until the due date is minutes away or past, it’ll only make things more difficult/awkward for you and the professor. The worst that can happen is that she will say no.
2. Acknowledge that an extension is a true favor (one which actually creates work for the professor, who may have her own time constraints for grading); i.e. don’t say “Hey prof, I totally need an extension, is that cool?” You’re asking for something serious, be serious.
3. Be clear about why you need extra time. If you know that you have 8 midterms and 4 papers due that day, explain what they are – and in that case, ask for the extension as soon as you know about the conflict. If you have a last-minute emergency, it’s probably a good idea to get something official from a doctor or dean backing you up.
4. Offer a firm date for turning the paper in; the professor may make a counter-offer, but proposing a date indicates that you’re being serious and mature in your request, rather than a flake.
Sounds sensible. Also ask about your prof’s policy on late papers/ p-sets. Sometimes it’s worth a small deduction if you ultimately turn in a much better product.